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The dangers of excavation work on construction sites

Safety is of paramount importance on building sites in Pennsylvania and around the country due to the hazardous nature of the work being performed, and excavation and trenching are among the most dangerous construction activities. Construction workers digging deep trenches may be most concerned about possible cave-ins, but oxygen deprivation, toxic fume inhalation and drowning in confined spaces are also significant risks.

Health and safety experts understand that excavations are inherently unstable, and measures that should be taken before digging begins include assessing the soil that will be removed and installing appropriate protection and containment systems. Getting in and out of the trench or excavation area should be easy in emergency situations, and the air should be tested in confined area to ensure that workers will receive adequate oxygen and are not exposed to toxic fumes. Trenches should also be inspected on a regular basis once excavation work has begun.

In addition to checking that containment and protection systems are sound, inspectors should ensure that excavated soil is not placed too closely to workers. Trench boxes or other retaining devices may also be employed to prevent excavated soil or equipment falling into trenches. Means of egress such as ladders or ramps should be placed within 25 feet of workers on trenches of 4 feet or more, and non-slip surfaces are recommended to allow speedy evacuation in an emergency situation.

Those who are injured in an on-the-job accident may be eligible to file a claim for benefits under their employer's workers' compensation coverage. An attorney can often be of assistance to an injured employee in ensuring that the claim is filed on a timely basis and that it contains the required documentation.

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